Sonia Rykiel Generous Sweaters

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of Sonia Rykiel – the first store was opened in May 1968 on Paris’ Left Bank, at the same time as the student protests which were to shake France and the world. To mark the half-century of these two essential events, Sonia Rykiel artistic director Julie De Libran has chosen to bring together a group of influential, international women around the house’s quintessential piece: the sweater. Julie De Libran and her guests have each created a limited edition sweater design, the proceeds of which will go to individual charities with a focus on helping women, chosen by each participant for a significant reason. Along with Julie de Libran, the group includes actresses Kirsten Dunst, Sofia Boutella and Kristin Scott Thomas, architect Kazuyo Sejima, model and activist Liya Kebede, artist and influencer Langley Fox and ballet dancer and artistic director of the Korean National Ballet Sue-Jin Kang. 

“Sonia Rykiel has always been a fashion house creating designs by women, for women. In my work and in my personal life, I enjoy bringing together extraordinary women who inspire me. To mark the anniversary of the house and of a year which changed the social landscape in France, it was important for me to create a platform for expression that was also an opportunity to give something back to society,” states Julie de Libran. “Generous Sweaters has been a very rich experience and the occasion to learn and exchange with these outstanding women, all of whom have a strong connection to the Sonia Rykiel universe. They have all shown extraordinary commitment to the project and been so generous with their time and input. It has been a great exercise in female affirmation.” Among the charities chosen by the participants are La Maison des Femmes, Planned Parenthood, Ving, Hope & Home for Children, Le Refuge, Lemlem Foundation, Okaeri-Gohan Shokun and the Children’s Hospital of Seoul National University. 

The choice of the sweater as the creative “blank page” for the project reflects the very first design that motivated Sonia Rykiel to launch her own fashion house. “The sweater was an obvious choice to pay homage to “the Queen of Knits” as Sonia was known. In our more casual era, the sweater is a quintessential piece that is warm, comfortable and versatile. This project was an inspiring opportunity to share with my guest designers the unique Rykiel knitwear savoir-faire,” says Julie de Libran. 

The designs for the Generous Sweaters project will be available in a limited edition per design in Sonia Rykiel stores and online, from mid-October 2018. 


Sonia Rykiel’s artistic director Julie de Libran has imagined a wardrobe of three perfect black sweaters, suited to different times of day and occasions. A ribbed wool sweater, short-sleeved merino t-shirt and luxuriously soft sheer vicuna design make up this essential « kit ». Julie de Libran supports La Maison des Femmes, an establishment in Saint-Denis near Paris open to all women who have experienced any kind of physical or sexual violence. The Generous Sweaters project is her way of paying hommage to Sonia Rykiel’s free spirit on the house’s 50th anniversary. 


Looking back to her Swedish origins, actress Kirsten Dunst chose to reinterpret the traditional Swedish sweater by incorporating a poppy design and selecting different qualities of black yarn (angora, wool, silk, velvet…) to create contrasting textures. Best known for her roles in Sofia Coppola’s Virgin Suicides and Marie-Antoinette, and her performance in Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia, for which she won the best actress award at the Cannes Festival in 2011, Kirsten Dunst has nominated as her chosen charity Planned Parenthood, the US-based organisation providing medical and contraceptive care and advice for women.


Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima was inspired by the ancestral Japanese technique of Junihitoe, or layering of kimonos. Her final design is a series of three dresses (with 7, 3 and 2 layers) crafted by Sonia Rykiel’s historic Italian manufacturer in an airy, technical knit which required days to perfect. Founder of SANAA, which has created landmark buildings across the world, including New York’s New Museum and the Louvre-Lens museum, Kazuyo Sjima has chosen the charity Okaeri-Gohan Shokudo (“Welcome Home Canteen”), which provides both free meals and a support network for single and working mothers and their families in Hitachi City, Japan. 


While her great-grandfather Ernest Hemingway used the pen to write, Langley Fox prefers to sketch, creating artwork in her trademark black and white figurative style for international publications and exhibitions. She supports Le Refuge, France’s only state-recognised organisation providing emergency accommodation and support for young victims of homophobia and transphobia. The bold multicoloured stripes on Langley Fox’s classic knit express this support of the LGBT community. The rainbow sweater is created in a mix of wool and cashmere stripes.


Inspired by her native Ethiopia, actress and model Liya Kebede blends handwoven lemlem fabrics made by artisans with elements of a classic men’s shirt to create this sweater. Proceeds from this sale will be donated to support the lemlem Foundation’s efforts to connect women artisans in Africa to healthcare, education and pathways to jobs. 


As a dancer and choreographer, Sue-Jin Kang, artistic director of the Korean National Ballet, imagined a set of garments to warm and comfort a dancer’s body after rehearsal. The crossover cardigan and ribbed pants feature a multicoloured jacquard to express the joy of dancing and life. Kang’s chosen charity is the Children’s Hospital of Seoul National University, to bring hope and comfort to those treated there.


French-born, Los Angeles-based actress Sofia Boutella, known for her roles in Kingsman and Star Trek, has chosen to help Ving, an online community allowing young people under eighteen to nominate adults in their community who they feel are deserving of financial assistance. Sofia Boutella chose to put an element of herself in her two sweater designs, creating a print made from images of her dancing naked for a fine-gauge knit, and a bright butterfly sweater than can be worn over the illustrated design. 


The traditional marinière is given added glamour by actress Kristin Scott Thomas. Her design includes cashmere and lurex yarns, its seamless collar closing with vintage Sonia Rykiel buttons to create a feature in its own right. English by birth yet French at heart, actress Kristin Scott Thomas has captured hearts and minds through her performances in films as diverse as Four Weddings and a Funeral or The English Patient. This collaboration marks the opportunity to support a cause very close to her heart, Hope and Homes for Children, which aims to take a children out of institutions and place them in family homes with caring adults and siblings.

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